I resisted inner child work for about 10 years, or should I say it took me 10 years of therapy to come to a place where I was ready to connect into and love that wounded dissociated traumatised child who was cringing and hiding inside of me, in a dark and lonely place; and may I add it also took my incredibly patient and compassionate therapist walking that entire 10 year journey with me to get me there.
The hardest part of inner child work for me was realising how through my own actions I was replicating the violence I had experienced as a child; I was inflicting harm as an adult onto myself through devaluing, dissociating, minimising, self harming and gaslighting my emotional, psychological, physical experiences.
When we beat ourselves up, when we berate ourselves, when we experience disgust, loathing or revulsion to parts of ourselves that are in pain, that is a behaviour we learned in the crucible of childhood violence and until resolution, one that we will act out repetitively over our lifetime. And in the repeating behaviour, rather than see the repetition as the issue, we see the pain as an immutable permanent fixture and assume this immutable pain is normal, that's just the way it is, and we just have to go through our life with gritted teeth and clenched fists. We must bear it because there is no other way.
For me and my process, some of the most painful work I have ever done in my life was learning to love that child in me, to love her demands, to love her neediness, to love her terror, to love her rage, to love her excitement, essentially to love every part of her and hold her in a constant embrace of loving kindness and acceptance. But the most pleasurable experience was welcoming her home and feeling how giving myself love was not some therapeutic parlor trick but in fact profoundly and deeply healing.
Thich Nhat Hanh's book "Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child" was a turning point for me in overcoming my resistance to my inner child work and finally surrendering to the fact I had utterly fucked up a significant portion of my adult life because of my continued terrier-like attachment to the notion I had to get rid of the needy child inside me to get rid of the pain and suffering I experienced.
There are many paths to healing and if client chooses to as part of their healing path to explore the inner child route it does require surrender and vulnerability - as most aspects of therapy do. I will support any client to welcome that wounded child inside of them, to make a place for them and offer the love they can give as adults. These clients hopefully also will experience the love they have to give here and now as the antidote to the love they did not receive as children in the past. I am ready to help clients to welcome their inner child home.
Again, inner child work is not for everyone but if it is the therapeutic path a client chooses it can be a powerfully healing one and Thich Nhat Hanh's buddhist informed approach a powerful framework.
Below is a quotation and link to the article written by Thich Nhat Hanh on 28 january 2018 that inspired me to write this post today.
From the article "That little child might emerge from the depths of your consciousness and ask for your attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment, instead of paying attention to whatever is in front of you, go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child. You can talk directly to the child with the language of love, saying, “In the past, I left you alone. I went away from you. Now, I am very sorry. I am going to embrace you.” You can say, “Darling, I am here for you. I will take good care of you. I know you suffer so much. I have been so busy. I have neglected you, and now I have learned a way to come back to you.”
Photo by Hugues de Buyer-Mimeure
read the article by Thich Nhat Nanh: Healing the Inner Child